According to the views of the Brahmins, we are now in Kali-Yuga [the Dark or Iron Age], which began about the time of Krishna's appearance. He is said to have descended in order to start among men those moral and philosophical ideas which were necessary to be known during the revolution of the Age, at the end of which — after a brief period of darkness — a better age will begin.
"In one aspect history gives us merely the small or great occurrences of man's progress; but in another, any one great historical epoch will give us a picture of the evolution in man, in the mass, of any corresponding faculty of the Individual Soul." — The Bhagavad Gita, William Brehon, p. 26.
"There is such a thing as being intoxicated in the course of an unwise pursuit of what we erroneously imagine is spirituality. In the Christian Bible it is very wisely directed to 'prove all' and to hold only to that which is good; this advice is just as important to the student of occultism; who thinks that he has separated himself from those 'inferior' people engaged either in following a dogma or phenomena . . .
"The placid surface of the sea of spirit is the only mirror in which can be caught undisturbed the reflections of spiritual things.
"The liability to be carried off and intoxicated by phenomena is to be guarded against. We should watch, note and discriminate in all cases; place them down for future reference, to be related to some law, or for comparisons with other circumstances of a like sort. The power that Nature has of deluding us is endless, and if we stop at these matters she will let us go no further. It is not that any person or power in Nature has declared that if we do so and so we must stop, but when one is carried off by what Boehme calls 'God's wonders' the result is an intoxication that produces confusion of the intellect . . . While he proceeded with his indulgence and neglected his true progress, which is always dependent upon his purity of motive and conquest of his known or ascertainable defects, Nature went on accumulating the store of illusory appearances with which he satisfied himself.
" . . . But were our whole life devoted to and rewarded by an enormous succession of phenomena, it is also equally certain that the casting off of the body would be the end of all that sort of experience, without our having added really anything to our stock of true knowledge.
" . . . We may be physically brave and say that no fear can enter into us, but no untrained or merely curious seeker is able to say just what effect will result to his outer senses from the attack or influence encountered by the psychical senses.
"And the person who revolves selfishly around himself as a center is in greater danger of delusion than any one else, for he has not the assistance that comes from being united in thought with all other sincere seekers. One may stand in a dark house where none of the objects can be distinguished and quite plainly see all that is illuminated outside; in the same way we can see from out of the blackness of our own house — our hearts — the objects now and then illuminated outside by the astral light; but we gain nothing. We must first dispel the inner darkness before trying to see into the darkness without; we must know ourselves before knowing things extraneous to ourselves.
"This is not the road that seems easiest to students. Most of them find it far pleasanter, and, as they think, faster work, to look on all these outside allurements, and to cultivate all psychic senses, to the exclusion of real spiritual work.
"The true road is plain and easy to find, it is so easy that very many would-be students miss it because they cannot believe it is so simple." — Astral Intoxication. — Editorial.
"But there is the highest authority for reading this poem [The Bhagavad Gita] between the lines. The Vedas themselves say, that what we see of them, is only 'the disclosed Veda,' and that one should strive to get above this disclosed word. It is here clearly implied that the undisclosed Vedas must be hidden or contained in that which is apparent to the outer senses. Did we not have this privilege, then surely will we be reduced to obtaining true knowledge solely from the facts of experience as suffered by the mortal frame, and fall into the gross error of the materialists, who claim that mind is only an effect produced by the physical brain molecules coming into action. We would also have to follow the canonical rule, that conscience is a safe guide only when it is regulated by an external law such as the law of the church, or of the Brahminical caste. But we very well know that within the material, apparent — or disclosed — man, exists the real one who is undisclosed. This valuable privilege of looking for the inner sense, while not straining after impossible meanings in the text, is permitted to all sincere students of any holy scriptures, Christian or Pagan.
"Nor should the Western student of the poem be deterred from any attempt to get at the real meaning, by the attitude of the Brahmins, who hold that only Brahmins can be told this real meaning, and, because Krishna did not make it plain, it may not be made plain now to Sudras, or low caste people. . . . Krishna did not make such an exclusion, which is only priestcraft. He was himself of shepherd caste and not a Brahmin; and he says that any one who listens to his words will receive great benefit. The sole limitation made by him is that one in which he declares that these things must not be taught to those who do not want to listen, which is just the same direction as that given by Jesus of Nazareth when he said, 'cast not your pearls before swine.' . . .
"Some one has said — Goethe I think — that the old pagan religions taught, man to look up, to aspire continually toward the greatness which was really his to achieve, and thus led him to regard himself as but little less, potentially, than a God; while the attitude of man under the Christian system is one of humility, of bowed head and lowered eyes, in the presence of his God. In. approaching the 'jealous God' of the Mosaic dispensation, it is not permissible to assume an erect position. This change of attitude becomes necessary as soon as we postulate a Deity who is outside and beyond us. And yet it is not due to the Christian scriptures in themselves, but solely to the wrong interpretation given them by priests and churches, and easily believed by a weak humanity that needs a support beyond itself on which to lean." — The Bhagavad Gita. — William Brehon, p. 25.
"The Mohammedan teacher directs his disciples to tread carefully the razor's edge between the good and the bad; only a hair line divides the false from the true. In this the Asiatic took an excellent illustration, for the hair line is the small stroke alif, which, placed in a word, may alter the sense from the true to the false.
" . . . Every member of it (the Theosophical Society) stands to the whole Society as every fibre in the body does to the whole man. Thus now, more than ever before, does each member of the Society feel disturbing influences; and the Path of Action becomes more and more likely to be obscured.
"Always existing or coming into existence in our ranks, have been centers of emotional disturbance. Those who expect that these perturbations ought now to cease and grow less likely to recur, will find themselves mistaken. The increase of interest that is being taken in the Society's work, and the larger number of earnest students who are with us than at any previous period, constitute elements of agitation. Each new member is another nature added, and every one acts after his own nature. Thus the chances for being discomposed are sure to increase: and it is better thus, for peace with stagnation partakes of the nature of what is called in the Bhagavad Gita, Tamagunam, or, of the quality of darkness. This quality of darkness, than which there is nothing worse, is the chief component of indifference, and indifference leads only to extinction.
"Still another element in this equation that every earnest Theosophist has to solve, and which in itself contains the potency of manifold commotions, is a law hard to define, yet inexorable in its action. For its clearer comprehension we may say that it is shown in Nature by the rising of the sun. In the night when the moon's rays flooded the scene, every object was covered with a romantic light, and when that luminary went down, it left everything in a partial obscurity wherein many doubtful characters could conceal their identity or even masquerade for that which they were not. But on the Sun's arising all objects stand out in their true colors; the rugged bark of the oak has lost the softening cover of partial day; the rank weeds can no longer be imagined as the malwa flowers. The powerful hand of God has unveiled the character of all.
"It must not be supposed that a record has been kept by any officials, from which are to be taken and published the characters of our members. There is no need of that; circumstances taking place in natural order, or apparently from eccentric motion, will cause us all, whether we will or not, to stand forth for what we are.
"Every one of us will have to stop and learn in the cave outside of the Hall of Learning, before we can enter there. Very true that cave, with all its dark shadows and agitating influences, is an illusion, but it is one that very few will fail to create, for hard indeed to be overcome are the illusions of matter. In that we shall discover the nature of action and inaction; there we will come to admit that although the quality of action partakes of the nature of badness, yet it is nearer to the quality of truth than is that which we have called darkness, quietude, indifference. Out of the turmoil and the strife of an apparently untamed life may arise one who is a warrior for Truth. A thousand errors of judgment made by an earnest student, who with a pure and high motive strives to push on the Cause, are better than the outward goodness of those who are judges of their fellows." — The Path of Action. — Hadji Erinn, p. 249.
"In one aspect, the Bhagavad Gita is a personal book. It is for each man; and it is in that way we have so far considered it. Some have called it obscure, and others a book which deals solely with the great principles of Nature; with only great questions of cosmogony; with difficult and bewildering questions relating to the first cause; and still others think it is contradictory and vague. But this first scene in the great colloquy is plain. It has the din of arms, the movement of battalions and the disposition of forces with their generals. No one need feel any hesitation now, for we are face to face with ourselves. The weak man, or he who does not care for Truth no matter where it leads, had better shut the book now. Unless he can go on reading the poem with the fixed intention of applying it to himself, it will do him no good whatever. He may say, however, that he will read it for what it may seem to contain, but if he reads to the end of time and does not fairly regard this first lecture, his knowledge gained further on will be no knowledge. It is indeed the book of the great mystery; but that problem was never solved for any one; it must be settled and solved by each one for himself.
" . . . If we completely apprehend the enormous power of our passions and various tendencies, most of us would throw up the fight in advance; for nothing would persuade us that any power within could withstand against such overwhelming odds. For us then the incitement to fight is found, not so much in any conversation that we hold now with Krishna, but in the impulses which are carried across, again and again, from incarnation to incarnation.
"We take up the gage over and over again, life after life, in experience after experience, never completely defeated if we always look to Krishna — our Higher Self. . . . In our last births we had all the advice given in this poem, . . . and now and then have reminiscences from the past: sometimes we stoutly take up the fight: but surely, if we have listened to our guide aright we will compel ourselves at last to carry it out until finished.
"In coming to the conclusion of this first chapter, we reach the first abyss. It is not the great abyss, albeit it may seem to us, in our experience, to be the greatest. We are now vis-a-vis with our own despair, and doubt, his companion. Many a student of Theosophy has in our own sight reached this point — all true students do. Like a little child who first ventures from the parent's side, we are affrighted at what seems new to us, and dropping our weapons attempt to get away; but, in the pursuit of Theosophy it is not possible to go back.
"Because the abyss is behind us.
"There is in Nature a law that operates in every department whether moral or physical, and which may now be called that of undulation and then that of inhibition; while at other times it appears as vibration, and still again as attraction and repulsion, but all these changes are only apparent because at bottom it is the same. Among vegetables it causes the sap to flow up the tree in one way and will not permit it to return in the same direction. In our own blood circulation we find the blood propelled from the heart, and that Nature has provided little valves which will not permit it to return to the heart by the way it came, but by the way provided. Medical and anatomical science are not quite sure what it is that causes the blood to pass these valves; whether it is pressure from behind communicated by the heart, or the pressure by atmosphere from without which gently squeezes, as it were, the blood upon its way. But the Occultist does not find himself limited by these empirical deductions. He goes at once to the center and declares that the impulse is from the heart and that that organ receives its impulse from the great astral heart or the Akasa, which has been said by all mystics to have a double motion, or alternate vibration — the systole and diastole of Nature.
"So in this sense the valve in the circulation represents the abyss behind us that we cannot repass. We are in the great general circulation, and compelled whether we like it or not, to obey its forward impulse.
"We enter upon this great path of action in occultism mentally disposed towards final victory. This mental attitude instantly throws all parts of our being into agitation, during which the tendencies which are by nature antipathetic to each other separate and range themselves on opposite sides. This creates great distress, with oftentimes wandering of the mind, and adds additional terror to our dark despair. We may then sink down and declare that we will fly to a forest — or as they did once in Europe, to a monastery — so as to get away from what seems to be unfavorable ground for a conflict. But we have evoked a force in Nature and set up a current and vibration which will go on no matter what we do [or where we go]. This is the meaning of the "flying of arrows" even when Arjuna sat down on the bench of his chariot.
"At this point of our progress we should examine our motive and desire.
"It has been said in some Theosophical writings of the present day, that a 'spiritualized will' ought to be cultivated. As terms are of the highest importance we ought to be careful how we use them, for in the inner life they represent either genuine, regulated forces, or useless and abortive things that lead to nothing but confusion. This term 'spiritualized will' leads to error, because in fact it has no existence. The mistake has grown out of the constant dwelling on 'will' and 'forces' needed for the production of phenomena, as something the disciple should strive to obtain — whether so confessed or not — while the real motive power is lost sight of. It is very essential that we should clearly understand this, for if we make the blunder of attributing to will or to any other faculty an action which it does not have, or of placing it in a plane to which it does not belong, we at once remove ourselves far from the real knowledge, since all action on this plane is by mind alone.
"The old Hermetic statement is: 'Behind will stands desire,' and it is true.
"Will is a pure, colorless force which is moved into action by desire. If desire does not give a direction the will is motionless; and just as desire indicates, so the will proceeds to execute.
"But as there are countless wills of sentient beings constantly plying to and fro in our sphere, and must be at all times in some manner acting upon one another, the question arises, what is that sort of knowledge which shows how to use the will so that the effect of counteracting wills may not be felt. That knowledge is lost among the generality of men and is only instinctive here and there in the world as a matter of Karmic result, giving us examples of men whose will seems to lead them on to success.
"Furthermore, men of the world are not desiring to see results which shall be in accord with the general will of Nature, because they are wanting this and that for their own benefit [Italics mine, Katherine Tingley, Editor]. Their desire, then, no matter how strong, is limited, or nullified: (1) by lack of knowledge of how to counteract other wills; (2) by being in opposition to the general will of Nature without the other power of being able to act strongly in opposition to that too.
"So it follows — as we see in practice in life — that men obtain only a portion of that which they desire.
"The question next arises: Can a man go against the general will of Nature and escape destruction, and also be able to desire wickedly with knowledge, and accomplish, through will, what he wishes?
"Such a man can do all of these — except to escape destruction. That is sure to come, no matter at how remote a period.
"He acquires extraordinary knowledge, enabling him to use powers for selfish purposes during immense periods of time, but at last the insidious effect of the opposition to the general true will makes itself felt and he is destroyed for ever.
"This fact is the origin of the destructions-of-worlds myths, and of those myths of combats such as between Krishna and Ravana, the demon god, and between Durga and the demons.
"For in other ages, as is to again occur in ages to come, these wickedly desiring people, having great knowledge, increase to an enormous extent and threaten the stability of the world. Then the adherents of the good law can no longer quietly work on for humanity, but come out in force, and a fight ensues in which the black magicians [i. e, the forces working evil in the world] are always destroyed [Italics mine, Katherine Tingley, Editor], because the Great Helpers of Humanity possess not only equal knowledge with those working against Humanity, but have in addition [a compassionate love for Humanity and] the great assistance of the general will of Nature which is not in control of the others, and so it is inevitable that the good should triumph always. This assistance is also the heritage of every true student, and may be invoked by the real disciple when he has arrived at and passed the first abyss." —The Bhagavad-Gita. — William Brehon, p. 295.
1. Extracts from "The Path," Vol. II. (return to text)
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